The draft, which had been scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, was successfully completed virtually from the homes of coaches, general managers and other front office staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player the Vikings have selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 22 overall: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
My take: Oh, the irony of using the pick acquired by trading Stefon Diggs to draft his replacement! Jefferson is a top-five receiver, and Minnesota was able to get him at No. 22 without having to trade up one spot with the Philadelphia Eagles, who took a receiver (Jalen Reagor) moments before the Vikings were on the clock. The run on receivers put Jefferson in Minnesota's lap at a place where general manager Rick Spielman couldn't afford to pass him up. The unpredictable nature of the draft played into the Vikings' favor in a big way. The Vikings were able to check the best player available box and draft for need with the same pick. They played the first round wisely and were able to get two players at positions of need (more on CB Jeff Gladney below) who will have a chance to compete for starting roles as rookies.
Slot star: Jefferson said he was an outside receiver his entire football career before last year when he was moved inside. He's apparently a very quick study. The 6-foot-1 wideout set a school record with 111 receptions in 2019, 100 of which came from the slot where he caught 17 of his 18 touchdowns. He credits his former offensive coordinator Joe Brady for working with him on various ball and eye-coordination drills to sharpen his hand usage and reaction time, which in turn made him a better receiver. His hands are quick, and so is his ability to come in and out of breaks, which could translate nicely into becoming a threat on intermediate routes. The challenge Minnesota faces is figuring out where to line up its receiver group, which boasts more depth in the slot than on the outside.
New No. 2: Jefferson was brought in as the heir apparent to Diggs, which means he jumps up the list of receivers the Vikings have under contract to compete for the No. 2 job opposite Adam Thielen. Jefferson's qualities are similar to Diggs': strong route running and footwork, contested catch ability, insane catch radius and a third-down magnet. Drafting Jefferson gives the Vikings a head start on replacing all that they lost when Diggs was traded. He has a lot to live up to but is one of the most talented receivers in a historically deep class.
Round 1, No. 31 overall: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
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My take: Spielman saw how the board was coming together at the cornerback position and played this perfectly. Instead of reaching for a cornerback at No. 25 (like the Raiders did with Damon Arnette six picks prior), Spielman sent his second first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for picks No. 31, 117 and 176. Minnesota landed Gladney, a tough, physical corner who makes up for his below-average size (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) with the dogged way he plays the game. The Vikings' cornerback group took a hard hit in free agency with the departures of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. And the 2019 season wasn't kind to this group either. Vikings' opponents completed 69% of their passes when a DB was the nearest defender last season, which was the fourth-highest in the league per NFL Next Gen Stats. The secondary needs a reboot, and it gets a fresh start with a group of young corners (Gladney included) who will compete to take on starting roles.
Flexible fit: Gladney described himself as a "physical speed demon" and man cornerback at the NFL combine. His physical attributes are the prototype for what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer likes in his corners. That's why it didn't come as much of a surprise to Gladney that the Vikings chose him, though he admits to some nerves when he saw Minnesota trade back from No. 25. His experience playing in the slot and outside gives the Vikings options on where to line him up. But the shortened offseason could make it challenging for Gladney to earn the nickel job right away. Mike Hughes, the Vikings' 2018 first-round pick, had the benefit for a full offseason program before he took snaps in the slot two years ago. It might take Gladney more time to develop, but Zimmer believes he has the right skillset to eventually play there as well.
Tough as nails: Gladney played the 2019 season with a torn meniscus and wanted to prove himself at combine so much that he delayed knee surgery until after he went through drills in Indianapolis. "I have a very high pain tolerance," Gladney said after he was drafted. "Played through it the whole season. It was just a little nagging, but the combine, it was just all heart. I wanted to show everybody what I had before I had the surgery, so made sure I pushed it behind that. I mean, I'm ready to go now. I'm just ready to show what I'm working with."
Round 2, No. 58 overall: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
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My take: Trade talks with Washington over Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams were put to bed when the Vikings selected Cleveland. The move saved the franchise a ton of money between not having to give up draft picks, incur Williams' 2020 salary and work out a long-term deal, and instead allowed Minnesota to add a high-ceiling offensive tackle.
The Vikings got lucky with the way the board fell on Friday night with the early run on wide receivers, running backs and safeties pushing the offensive line group further down. General manager Rick Spielman didn't need to be aggressive and trade up (though the Vikings considered it at points) given Cleveland and Houston's Josh Jones, the top two tackles on the board, were available to the Vikings at No. 58.
Minnesota's second-round pick draws similarities to the one it made two years ago when Spielman drafted right tackle Brian O'Neill in the second round. He was considered more of a project at the time but ended up starting at right tackle before the halfway point of his rookie season. Like O'Neill, Cleveland, a 6-foot-6, 311-pound tackle, wowed the Vikings with his athleticism at the NFL combine (4.93 second 40-yard dash, 7.26-secound three-cone drill) and projects best in an outside zone blocking scheme.
"You watch the tape, first of all, and you see with your own eyes what you think he could do if put in our type of offense," director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said. With the Vikings passing on Williams, Riley Reiff is expected to stay at left tackle for now. It's possible the Vikings will see a need for Cleveland to essentially redshirt the 2020 season, add size to his frame (much like O'Neill as a rookie) before he has a chance to compete for one of the tackle spots. But on Friday, Stephenson said Cleveland is going to be able to come in and help the Vikings right away.
Round 3, No. 89 overall: Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
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My take: The Vikings are working their way out of the red with their cornerback group after taking TCU’s Jeff Gladney and Dantzler on the first two nights. Minnesota now has five cornerbacks between their two rookies, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd. Dantzler, the lanky 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, was among the SEC’s best cornerbacks over the past two seasons with 22 starts and compiled 105 tackles, five interceptions and 20 pass breakups over his career. He projects as a versatile cover corner in the NFL where he could have a shot to compete for one of the remaining outside spots (with Hill), assuming Hughes and Gladney are slotted elsewhere. Dantzler clocked a slow 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the combine but sent teams a video from an individual pro day in Baton Rouge earlier this month in which he clocked in a 4.38 seconds.
Round 4, No. 117 overall: D.J. Wonnum, DE, South Carolina
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My take: The Vikings love using the fourth round to draft defensive linemen. It's the spot where they've taken Everson Griffen, Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes, and now, Wonnum, a three-year starter and two-time team captain at South Carolina. Wonnum has long been a target of Minnesota's throughout this draft process. At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Wonnum looks like a physical carbon copy of Danielle Hunter when he was coming out of LSU five years ago. Minnesota is going through an evolution on the defensive line with Griffen having moved on in free agency (though he remains unsigned) and the departure of rotational pass-rusher Stephen Weatherly, who signed with Carolina. With Ifeadi Odenigbo primed to take on some of Griffen's duties, the Vikings needed to address depth at defensive end and may be able to use Wonnum as a rotational edge rusher as a rookie. The Georgia native had 30 starts for the Gamecoks with 137 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks.
Round 4, No. 130 overall: James Lynch, DT, Baylor
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My take: Minnesota drafted Baylor’s all-time career leader in sacks (22.0) when they took Lynch. Lynch is a versatile, powerful pass rusher who could give the Vikings a boost with their interior pass rush from the three-technique spot after he notched 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss last season. A unanimous All-American, effort is the first thing that jumps out to evaluators when looking at his college film. His sack numbers are one thing, but the amount of pressure Lynch generates on quarterbacks makes him a constant disruption in the backfield. Defensive coordinator Andre Patterson will want to refine Lynch's technique, but his comfortability and willingness to play inside and outside gives the Vikings options to find a good fit for him in various sub-packages.
Round 4, No. 132 overall: Troy Dye, ILB, Oregon
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My take: The 6-foot-3, 231-pound Dye had been a difference maker at Oregon since his freshman year and led the Ducks in tackles for four straight seasons. Dye fell further than many draft analysts expected, so the Vikings were gifted another higher-value pick. He was used differently in college (as a pass-rusher, he had 13 career sacks) than his projected role in the NFL as a 4-3 outside linebacker. That’s similar to Anthony Barr's story coming out of UCLA. Dye said at the combine that he aims to model his game after his new teammate Barr. He has a good pedigree, as his brothers all played college football as did his dad. His size could be a concern, although his build is similar to Eric Kendricks and Cameron Smith. He also had 44 tackles for loss at Oregon. -- Courtney Cronin and Michael Rothstein
Round 5, No. 169 overall: Harrison Hand, CB, Temple
My take: It seems coach Mike Zimmer has officially taken over the Vikings' draft board, using the team's first four picks on Day 3 to retool his defense. Hand is the third corner selected by Minnesota in 2020, joining fellow rookies Gladney (No. 31) and Dantzler (No. 89). The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder started his career at Baylor before transferring to Temple in 2019, where he started 12 games for the Owls and recorded 59 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. Hand's physicality makes him a good tackler, and he prides himself on using his length to cover. It's unclear how the Vikings' see him fitting given several scouting reports project him best as a Cover 3 fit who can provide support against the run and play in the box. He might become a cornerback used in specific schemes or could transition to safety in the NFL. Neither is a bad option given the Vikings are addressing depth concerns at both positions.
Round 5, No. 176 overall: K.J. Osborn, WR, Miami
My take: Drafting Justin Jefferson 22nd overall allowed the Vikings to focus on other positions of need throughout Day 2 and in the fourth round. Minnesota waited until pick No. 176 in the fifth to select its second wide receiver, and K.J. Osborn comes with a variety of experience. At the University of Buffalo, Obsorn played primarily in the slot. After he transferred to Miami following the 2018 season, he started all 13 games as a senior where he found a home on the outside. Osborn’s stats don’t jump off the page, though he led the Hurricanes in receiving (50 catches, 547 yards, 5 TDs), but his contributions as a return specialist made him a well-rounded player. In fact, the Vikings are intrigued by his abilities as a punt returner (15.9 yards per return at Miami) and could consider him for that role as Mike Hughes' responsibilities in the secondary are expected to increase this season.
Round 6, No. 203 overall: Blake Brandel, OT, Oregon State
My take: After selecting both Oli Udoh and Brandel in the sixth round in back-to-back years, the Vikings are finally getting back to drafting developmental offensive linemen late on Day 3, which last happened in 2015 when they took two offensive tackles in the sixth and seventh rounds. Brandel started and played in all 48 games of his career at Oregon State, logging the third-longest starting streak in school history. He’s a massive individual at 6-7, 308 pounds, and has experience both at left and right tackle. Given the prospect of a shortened offseason, rookie offensive linemen are likely going to feel the effects of not having the proper transition time to the NFL more than most positions. Brandel will have a shot to compete in camp, and if he ends up making the roster, he, too, could benefit from the type of “redshirt year” the Vikings gave Udoh in 2019.
Round 6, No. 205 overall: Josh Metellus, S, Michigan
My take: Metellus might have a better chance than most sixth-rounders to crack the roster since the Vikings have just two other safeties in Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. The 5-foot-11, 209-pounder profiles more as a strong safety than a center fielder, but he could play a versatile role in nickel or dime packages while also contributing on special teams. Metellus was a three-year starter at Michigan, totalling 172 tackles, five interceptions and 21 pass breakups over the past three years. Vikings GM Rick Spielman said during his pre-draft press conference that the team is “pretty well set” at safety in spite of the recently franchised Harris having yet to sign his $11.41 million tender. Sources told ESPN this month that the two sides are in the process of working out a long-term deal for the former UDFA. -- Mike Triplett
Round 7, No. 225 overall: Kenny Willekes, DE, Michigan State
My take: What a steal. The Vikings got another edge rusher with third/fourth-round value 11 picks into the seventh round. Willekes came to Michigan State as a 220-pound walk-on linebacker and left as the school’s career leader in tackles for loss with 51. After he came back from a broken leg sustained in the Spartans' 2018 bowl game, Willekes led the team and ranked fifth in the Big Ten with a career-high 10.5 sacks as a senior in 2019 and became the first defensive player in program history to be named team MVP twice. His story is nothing but inspiring. At the Senior Bowl in January, Willekes played outside linebacker for most of the week but projects highest as a rotational defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Round 7, No. 244 overall: Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
My take: This marks the first time the Vikings drafted a quarterback since 2014, when they used the last pick in the first round on Teddy Bridgewater. Stanley, the fourth quarterback on the roster, has prototypical size and solid arm strength. His lack of mobility and inconsistency throwing the ball (he never completed more than 60% in a season) is why he lasted until the seventh round. Stanley is expected to compete with Jake Browning, who spent all of last year on the practice squad, for the No. 3 quarterback spot behind Kirk Cousins and Sean Mannion. -- Jamison Hensley
Round 7, No. 249 overall: Brian Cole II, S, Mississippi State
My take: The Vikings must've liked what they saw from Mississippi State's secondary. Cole is the second Bulldogs defensive back taken by the Vikings in this draft, joining third-round pick Cameron Dantzler, a cornerback. The Vikings need depth at safety. They had only two on the roster before the draft: Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. They took Michigan's Josh Metellus in the sixth round (No. 205 overall) and with Cole they have now doubled their depth chart at the position. Cole ran a 4.52 40 and also has experience playing multiple spots. In his final college season, after returning from a torn pectoral muscle, he played a combination of safety and hybrid linebacker. Some also believe he's fast enough to play cornerback. -- Rob Demovsky
Round 7, No. 253 overall: Kyle Hinton, OG, Washburn
My take: The Vikings' 15th and final selection of the draft was spent on an offensive lineman. GM Rick Spielman tackled a lot of different needs over the last three days and made some excellent picks, but perhaps the area he’ll be most critiqued on is the one he addressed last. The Vikings spent three draft picks on offensive linemen, two of which were taken in the sixth and seventh rounds and project as camp players over guys who have a shot of making an immediate impact. Hinton played left tackle in college at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds. His size is why he’ll need to move inside to guard or center if he has any shot of making an NFL roster. But that’s not the point. After not being able to come to an agreement with Washington in a trade for Trent Williams, the only upgrade the Vikings made on the O-line in 2020 was drafting Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland in the second round. That’s not enough to fix an entire unit, so the Vikings will now have to address how they want to move forward, and who they’ll want to move around and try out at different positions, as they continue through an unprecedented offseason.
Spielman said there will be a “wide open competition” at both guard spots when the team is able to practice and that Riley Reiff will continue to hold down the "left side," presumably at left tackle, for the time being. Soon enough, the Vikings will get to see what they have in Dru Samia and Oli Udoh, two players drafted last year who may be ready to contribute regularly.